Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bikes, Bread, and Burritoes

Saturday was brilliant. Jim and I accompanied Mrs Elliott--all on our bikes (me on my road bike which made my knees very happy)--downtown in the morning. She had a meeting to attend, and Jim and I wanted to check out some of Bend's bicycle shops. Our plan was to meet up at 10:30 at Townshend's Teas for tea and tasties. So while she was occupied, we visited WebCyclery on SE Bond St. to get their take on my need for a cyclocross type bike. They were open at 9a and Jeff Dengel showed some might fine bikes but they didn't see an easy way to set up a bike for the narrower 140mm "Q factor" (stance) that I need to protect my knees. Catering to the younger, more flexible crowd, I reckon. Good shop, excellent parts availablity, good staff. I like the place.

Jim asked whether they kept odd parts for British bikes, and they suggested we try the Gear Peddlar, so we cruised over there, but they would not be open until 10. We noted that a shop nearby, specializing in Mexican foods, with "We have Yerba Mate" written in large letters on their front window. Bendites take note: This town has amazing resources; in San Diego's north county, with easily five times the population, I was unable to find a single shop selling yerba mate.

Rather than wait until the Gear Peddlar opened, we decided to take a ride up Newport avenue to Mt. Washington and over to Century and get to Bend Cyclery at about opening time. Eric and staff were opening the shop as we arrived so we parked ourselves across the street at the Village Baker. As an amateur bread baker, I know from pain au levain, and clearly so does their baker, Bill Kurzman. We chatted about flour and hydration for a few minutes and then snagged one of their stunningly delicious Parmesan bread sticks and iced tea to nosh and sip while Eric moved his bikes out of the store and on display.

Amazing breads at the Village Baker I gotta say. While their sour white doesn't have much of a classic sour taste (I commented on this in my mention of Chow), their 15-grain mockingbird is a meal in itself. But it's their striata which I gotta say is a perfect example of a true artisan bread.

As I pulled apart the bread, noticing the irregular voids and lovely stretchiness of the crumb, Bill said, "You can't make that at home."

I asked why not.

"It's between 70 and 80 percent hydration, and it's mixed for a long time. Do you have a mixer that can handle that?"

I said I could handle that much hydration (a very "sloppy" wet dough, hard to handle) but in truth I didn't get a chance to ask him how long he mixes it. I have been making great loaves with the "no-knead" method lately, I'll see what I can do with a wetter dough and break out the Kitchen Aid. Hopefully not burn up the motor.

My sourdough starter rode up with me in the refrigerator in Mellow Yellow. It had been dozing in the refrigerator in Carlsbad for a couple months since I used it last. I took it out of the refrigerator yesterday and fed it with flour and water. After a couple of feedings I expect it will get active and strong and be ready for use. Bill said that he doesn't use anything special for flour at the Village Baker, but I bought a half pound of his flour anyway. In case he's being disingenuous. I'll use that to make a nice sourdough boule in a couple of days, to see how well the oven in the rather nice Wolf stove that came with the house.

I was almost going to write an entry saying that I have yet to have a bad meal in Bend, but last night's dinner at Longboard Louie's proved that not all meals will be great. I reckon the place is a favorite among locals--several of the guys who have been working here have mentioned it--but our experience wasn't so hot. The young woman working there was disinterested, and while not exactly hostile, she was nowhere near friendly. That's the kind of service I'm used to in SoCal, but not the kind I've found everywhere else I've eaten in Bend. The food was okay, not worth writing home about.

And what's with the rectangular burritos? Jim said that the burrito that he got in Portland was also rectangular. Longboard Louie's served up a burrito of the approximate size and shape of a thick paperback book. The ones farther south are shaped more like cylinders. Regional variations, I expect.

4 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear of the disappointment, the girl was un-engaged and had tight lips at dinner. At what pay is for many food serve jobs, it is unlikely to expect Indiana-like bubbles personality at all times. Maybe just not her night and I hope you did tip something at least, or do you do like some and leave nothing when service is low?

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  2. Your description of the server suggests that you were there!

    I always tip. Whether or not the server is my idea of charming is not real important when I consider that they are working hard for not much money.

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  3. Ah, Longboard's. One of those places you must be in a certain state of mind to really enjoy. A great (?) late-night, stumble in a grab a ton of carby-greasy food to "settle" your stomach kinda place. Fortunately, I no longer really have a need for a place like that.

    Try Parilla, up Galveston at the roundabout. Better people, definitely better food. Same-ish prices.

    I'm going to leave this comment here, too: I can't believe you took Old McKenzie with those trucks AND towing a westy! Whoa!

    I'd love to see those old bikes sometime, I'm a bit of a vintage bike nerd. Funny, I'm not really an avid cyclist.

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  4. @ totoro: Driven by Parilla many times. Music was pretty loud in the evenings, not sure if it's the kind of place for me. Gotten grumpier about loud music as I get older.

    W/r/t driving over McKenzie pass w/ giant trucks & towing a Westie. Yeah, well, at least we have shown that It Can Be Done. I'll leave it to others to follow in our footsteps.

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